Tim and Bruce are cyclying from Cairo to Cape Town in the Tour ‘d Afrique to raise funds to build 2 classrooms for a rural school in the Eastern Cape. So far they have raised R105,000.00 and need a further R75,000. You can view their website here or join their Facebook group here. Here is their account of their travels going into Kenya.
21 February, Day 38
100km Arba Minch to Proper Bush Camp
Just up the dry river bed from our tents linger some rather gaunt-looking cattle. Just down the river bed are some 40 goats in their makeshift kraal, built from impressive and very thorny acacia branches. We’re in proper Africa now, dirt roads, thorny bush and hungry-looking livestock and people. Absent from today’s ride were the angry stone-throwing kids, replaced thankfully by the more tribal herders, machetes and sickles in hand as they pushed on with their day’s arduous labour. As we ticked of the kilometres quickly today, so the sun would match us with increasing intensity, just enough to let us know that the next 6 days will be hot and testing riding conditions. Bring it….
22 February, Day 39
98km Proper Bush Camp to Yalabella Motel
Highlight: Just finishing
Today was proper tough. I haven’t been feeling well for more than five days now and today I felt worst of all. Previously my symptoms were a phlegmy cough, snotty nose and tight wheezy chest that burned whenever there was intense climbing. Nothing really to get too concerned about, only it just wasn’t going away. Well today was different, my chest felt better, but now I had diarrhea, intense stomach cramps, hot flushes, I had the shakes and no appetite – I just felt awful… Stubborn as can be, although also knowing my only limitations, I decided to cycle the day knowing if need be, I could jump in one of the trucks…
Hang on… another toilet break…
Tim was great, he cycled slowly with me for the first few hours over the fast rolling hills with the whole day on dirt roads, even stopping with me for a pit stop en route. We knew today was a very long 45km climb (1000m elevation gain) so when the climb started I stopped, waved Tim by, plugged in my music and grinded out the very, very long climb. It was a difficult road surface as it wasn’t possible to get into a rhythm due to the stones, soft sand and ruts. The climb seemed to take forever, especially the very steep last section. I was in the granniest of granny gears and I had been slipping up the steep section when suddenly I was plunging down towards the town of Yalabela as I’d summated the hill and started descending.
Today was simply a head down and graft day (“vas byt” as they say in Afrikaans), only a few people made the end so much so that Tim was the 2nd place rider and I was 3rd in the race. People were struggling so much that despite me going slowly, helping a friend change her tyres after both went flat at the same time, no lunch as I had no appetite and 3 toilet breaks, I still managed to come 3rd. People here are dropping like flies, almost everyone is either sick or recovering from being sick. In two days time we reach Kenya and the hope of nothing other than better sanitary conditions.
23 February, Day 40
128km Yalabella Motel to Groto Camp
Highlight: Sprice – a mix of tea and coffee in a single cup… a little weird, but quite tasty
I had high hopes of starting my blog with a report back on my first solid number 2 in days, but alas I was a little over optimistic due to my toilet-stop free ride today… oh well, perhaps tomorrow. I apologise if that’s a little vulgar, but that’s what life’s like on tour. After a few months you’ve gotten to know everyone quite well, so there are no more light conversational chats about family, jobs and home life, instead there are detailed descriptions of number 2’s, and whether or not you trust your colon enough to fart.
Tomorrow we leave Ethiopia and enter Kenya… WHOOOOOOO HOOOOOO!
I have so many mixed emotions about Ethiopia. Without a doubt my worst experiences of the Tour have been here – from the stone-throwing kids, the bouts of illness, the endless steep hills, the shear number of people, etc. However, in the very same breath, my best experiences of the Tour have also happened in Ethiopia, from running into John and meeting Fatima and Mista, to the lady near Addis Ababa performing the traditional coffee ceremony, to a most memorable 27th birthday in Addis Ababa, to the many, many macchiatos, the layered fruit juices (something I want to make after returning as a civilian), to the accomplishment felt after climbing the Blue Nile Gorge and high fiving at the end to the seemingly endless struggle that was the Yalabella hill whilst quite ill.
The scenery has been pretty, but not amazing Africa, as so much of the land has been cultivated and all wild life killed off for farming and grazing. The people are a nightmare, invading your personal space and endlessly staring at these crazy ‘Forangi’s’ (Ahmeric for foreigner) on shiny bikes, but the individual people we’ve met in coffee shops, bars, restaurants etc have all been unbelievably friendly and hospitable. The people stare, in fact I think we’re the entertainment for the night as the entire village comes down to watch the circus act as these weird looking white gypsies build their homes in minutes from a small bag, but that‘s all, they just stare.
Rarely thieving (my leather man being an exception) or harassing, etc. It’s frighteningly disappointing to see a place were the people have only ever been given the proverbially fish and have become completely reliant on the handout, rather than being taught how to fish and able to sustain themselves. As a result every Ethiopian that sees us puts out their hands waiting for a handout, it’s just so sad. Our resolve that the only sustainable way to improve ones quality of life is through education has been strengthened by our visit here. Ethiopia has been… well Ethiopia. Challenging, arduous, but rewarding in a way that took 3 weeks to recognise. Ethiopia has left an indelible mark on me, one I’ll never forget. I feel very blessed to have been here. But I’m certainly ready to leave.
24 February, Day 41
82km to the border town of Moyale and Kenya
Highlight: Bidding Ethiopia farewell
Warm greetings from Kenya! It’s funny how the slowest and sickest of all the cyclists just seemed to find that extra energy and positivity today to make it to the border in double time! As for us, we took our time, soaking up the last few kilometres of a country which was certainly a challenge in so many tough and wonderful ways. It was fitting that our last moments in Ethiopia were spent drinking coffee at a border hotel and chatting with a wonderfully intelligent young man, who took such a keen interest in us and our journey.
Daniel was his name and his grasp of the English language was superb because as he told us, he spent many an hour reading English novels and cross-checking them with a big dictionary when he stumbled across words he didn’t understand. His warmness, friendship, and explanation of the uneducated kids was the perfect way to bid Ethiopia farewell.
Kenya – where we will encounter the toughest ‘roads’ imaginable from tomorrow. Mentally and physically we’re up for the challenge, however there is some trepidation lurking in the wings as we’ve been forewarned that the strongest rider 2 years ago – Kenya was skipped last year due to the political violence – averaged only 12km/h on one of the 90km stages. So, in preparation for the tough day’s ahead, we’re taking extra special care of the bikes and bums which are a bit tender from the past few days. In case you didn‘t know, extra special treatment of the buttocks entails layering on Bepathenen or Fissan paste (normally used for a baby’s nappy rash) each and every night, first thing in the morning, and even during the day while riding!
25 February, Day 42
80km Moyale to Sololo
Highlight: Braaied steak – great big pieces!
Wow, what a 24hrs it’s been. Soon after writing yesterdays blog we were able to get our phone to work (+61403971780 in case you wanted to call or sms) and phoned home. Chatting to friends and family was like food for the soul and it meant the world to us after nearly a month of little to none voice contact.
Today’s ride was quite easily the ride of the tour! The dirt road was very poor but extremely enjoyable to cycle on – finally our mountain bikes are paying off. There were some ruts, soft sand and lots of corrugations, but the surface remained intact and meant for fun riding as you needed to choose a good line and always stay on the ball.
The scenery finally looked African with thickish bush and we even saw some game, vulturin guinea fowl, baboons, dik-dik’s and many more. For the first time since before Khartoum we got a tailwind, which meant that the day’s ride flew by, in the end we got to camp at round 11am, arriving even before the trucks. As a result we passed the time outside a local shop drinking warm cokes and smoky tea. Dinner was a massive piece of beef steak with pasta salad – it was simply out of this world and topped off with a sunset not to be forgotten. Kenya… I think I’m going to like this place!
Today we got off lightly though, the road could well have been in worse condition and the wind played a massive role in speeding up the day’s riding, but tomorrow is meant to be a different kettle of fish. Tomorrow we hit the lava rocks… it’s said to be seriously tough, hot and no shade at all… one revolution at a time and we’ll make it.
26 February, Day 43
80km Sololo to Lava Rock Camp
Highlight: Cracked ribs and nothing else
I remember the rushing sound of air and then the dull thump of the boulder as it slammed into my back. Next I remember lying on my side, not being able to breathe, and people scurrying about me, shouting “don’t move!”. It had been a tough day’s ride – so bad were the roads that a few of us had actually beaten the one support truck to the dreaded Lava Rock camp – a desolate wasteland with volcanic rocks and boulders all over the place, and no trees for shade at all in the searing heat. To help with the respite from the heat, a tarpaulin for shade had been erected from the side of the one run-about vehicle, and to secure the tarpaulin to the ground, the tarpaulin had been tied and anchored to a large volcanic boulder.
As we all sat huddled under the tarpaulin, swapping war-stories about the day’s terrible road conditions, a dust-devil came from nowhere and whipped the tarpaulin from our heads. As the tarpaulin flew, so did it’s heavy anchor, and I just happened to be in it’s path!
It’s hard to describe the force at which it hit me, but needless to say I cried out in pain while I still had some air in my lungs. As I came around, I heard Alex the paramedic asking me where it hurt. I remember wiggling my toes before I motioned that it had hit me on my upper back, luckily on the right hand side and not dead centre on my spine. Slowly but surely I began to move and sit up. My lungs were checked and given the all clear. I was as white as a sheet and faint from the shock of it all, but considering what could have been had I or someone else been sitting at a different angle or level, I was incredibly lucky to get away with just cracked ribs.
As the day wore on and the painkillers kicked in, I began to feel a bit better. My right side was incredibly sore and breathing deeply was a no-go due to the pain, but I was just thankful it hadn’t been someone’s head in the way of the flying boulder.
As I lay resting up in the truck, Bruce sorted the tents out among the lava rocks as dark clouds built in the distance – the day wasn’t over yet and we were in for a treat – our very first storm. The rain was a mixed blessing. It washed away the thick, hanging heat of the lava rock dessert as well as the dirt and grime from our bodies as took the opportunity to ‘shower’ in the rain. No sooner were we clean, that we realised the ferocious storm was turning our campsite into a mud-bath. The short-lived joy of being clean and cool was quickly replaced panic mode of securing tents, digging trenches and trying as best we could to keep our bags dry. There was a brief respite as dinner was served, but then it came down again.
Bruce ducked to his tent to eat while I simply stood in the rain shovelling damp food into my mouth. By this stage of the evening my whole right side was in agony and I simply did not have the energy to move anywhere. By 6.30pm the rain still hadn’t let up and both of us were in our tents, although Bruce’s resembled more of a dam than a tent. I climbed into my rain gear, popped more painkillers and was out like a light. It had been one helluva day!
27 February, Day 44
86km Lava Rock Camp to Marsabit
Highlight: Just finishing with a rest day tomorrow
What a day! After last night’s torrential downpour we emerged from our soaked tents and waded through the mud for breakfast. There simply was no way to clean the thick clay mud off anything, as a result we simply packed away our tents mud and all, and got on our bikes. Tim was sore from yesterday’s boulder incident, but was still up for the day’s riding, mainly because he knew it would be as painful riding in the trucks as it would on his bike. We’d been told that today was tough and they didn’t lie.
It’s hard to decide which was tougher, the smallish stones, the soft sand, the severe corrugations, deep gullies or the jagged rocks that seem to stop you dead in you tracks – all of these road surfaces were seriously difficult to negotiate and encountered often in long stretches, but for me the toughest part of the day was the strong cross/head wind which either blew you across the road or brought you to a grinding halt. Finally our bikes shone. The front forks were worth their weight in gold and the thick nobbly tyres outstanding. The two of us went well in the race, so well in fact that I ended up with our first stage win and Tim, despite said boulder incident and cracked ribs came in 3rd.
I think it’s a telling stat that after the toughest rest day to rest day stretch on what could quite easily be one of the toughest days on Tour the two of us prevailed leaving the other racers in our wake (the 2nd place rider was a sectional rider hence doesn’t have 4500km on his legs so we discount him). It was an emphatic victory even to the sectional rider.
The path into camp included a steady climb up to the top of a volcanic crater. In the short 86km from our desolate desert lava rock home this morning, we’ve ended up in a lush forest environment with grass and wildlife. The view into the crater was fantastic though not admired with full justice due to the racing and endless need to look at the path in front due to the difficult conditions.
Camp is set between large trees with lawn. We immediately set out our tents wide open without fly sheets in an attempt to dry them after last nights rain. Also drying thermo-rests and various items of clothing. We then proceeded to our bucket shower – simply a bucket of water used to clean yourself. Suddenly the rain arrived before we’d completely setup our tents with fly sheets or removed the items from the line… hence everything is still wet… hopefully tomorrow the sun shines brightly.
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